Have you ever given a speech at a wedding? Unless you’re gifted in extemporaneous speaking, you probably thought about what you wanted to say and made a plan. It’s an important day, after all, and you want to honor the couple as best as you can. How much more can be said about your business: It’s one of your most important assets, and you should do all you can to set it up for success by fostering its health and growth.
What is a strategic plan?
So, let’s talk strategic planning. As opposed to a business plan, which covers the “who” and “what” of your business (i.e. who leads the business and and what it does or sells), a strategic plan explains the “how,” as described by Noah Parsons in a Bplans article. It addresses long-term goals and the ways in which you plan to achieve them.
The Alternative Board, a business advisory board that provides resources to small business owners, describes strategic planning as a “systematic process for developing an organization’s direction.” It’s the thoughtful, outlined answer to the common question, “Where do you see your business in three to five years?” While there are different approaches to developing a strategic plan, four elements are helpful to include: 1) Evaluating your business as of today – think mission statement, vision, and core values; 2) Analyzing your strengths and weaknesses – good tools include SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results), and NOISE (Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, Strengths, Exceptions); 3) Determining your goals, the action steps needed to reach those goals, and how you will measure progress; 4) Assigning tasks for completing the action steps previously decided and setting deadlines.
Let’s say you’ve completed all these steps. You’ve drafted a strategic plan, perhaps after hiring a consultant to assist you with the process, and now it is “safely” stored away in a binder somewhere. This reality is not only tragic, but also all too common. Too many organizations struggle with coming up with a strategic plan, and when they finally do, it gets filed away and forgotten or lost. Remember, the purpose of a strategic plan is to remind you of your company’s big picture while giving you a road map to achieving the goals that bring your mission and vision to life.
Now, give yourself a little grace. The pandemic two years ago hit without warning and required nonprofit organizations (and everyone) to navigate the unknown at unprecedented speeds. But now as a new-normal spans out in front of us, I believe it is time to spark vision creation again. Maybe the most recent strategic plan can begin to move forward again. Or maybe it needs to be revisited and revised, which is a healthy practice even for those faithfully interacting with their plan.
Use the Plan as a Guide
The most nimble organizations are setting aside time for strategic planning to ensure that every move is connected to the vision of the organization, and every step taken is intentional progress toward its goals. How can you do likewise? Allocate some time, get the right people involved, and keep the plan visible. Add a timeline, broken down by quarter, with action items assigned to particular people or departments to stay on track. Use it to inspire fundraising so those who invest in your organization understand where you’re headed. It’s a powerful guide – use it to its fullest potential.
Are you confident in your current plan? If you need some help putting together a strategic planning retreat, contact me for a complimentary consultation.
“Without strategy, execution is aimless. Without execution, strategy is useless.” – Morris Chang